Dick Donovan.

Out there : a romance of Australia online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryDick DonovanOut there : a romance of Australia → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


'AS ^W






There"

<m=




i




Di
Don

4




A




s



"OUT THERE"



OUT THERE



A ROMANCE OF AUSTRALIA



BY

DICK DONOVAN

AUTHOR OF

'PAGES FROM AN ADVENTUROUS LIFE," "JIM THE PENMAN,'

"THE SCARLET SEAL," "FOR HONOUR OR DEATH,"

"A WILD BEAUTY," "THE TURNING WHEEL,"

"FOR GOD AND THE CZAR,"

"STORMLIGHT," ETC., ETC.



LONDON
EVERETT & CO, LTD.

42 ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.2



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



Stack
Annex



CONTENTS



BOOK I

LOVE

CHAP. FACE

I. THE DROUGHT . . .9

II. MARY . . . . .15

III. BILL BLEWITT . .28

IV. THE BIRTH OF DOUBT , . -2,8
V. LOVE AND GOLD . . . .46

VI. SOMETHING BREAKS . -57

VII. THE SPELL OF A WOMAN'S SOUL . . 68

VIII. TORTURED WITH DOUBTS . . - 75

IX. IN THE TENDERNESS OF THE NIGHT . . 82

X. THE CALL OF THE WILD . . -92

XI. THE BREAKING OF THE DROUGHT . . IOO

XII. GORDON RETURNS .... IIO

XIII. THE DECISION . . . . I2O

XIV. THE AWAKENING . . . .131
XV. IN THE WILDERNESS . . . 140

XVI. A VISION OF SPLENDOUR . . . 149

XVII. THE RIVALS . . . . .156

XVIII. TENSE MOMENTS .... 164

XIX. WRESTLING WITH DEATH . . . 171

XX. THE LAST DAY . . , . 177

5



6 CONTENTS

BOOK II

VENGEANCE

CHAP. PAGE

XXI. HAUNTING FA % RS . . .185

XXII. LOVE FINDS UTTERANCE . . . IQ2

XXIII. OUT OF THE SILENCE .... 2OO

XXIV. THE MESSAGE FROM THE WEST . . 207
XXV. THE SERPENT'S TEETH . . . 213

xxvi. A LITTLE SCANDAL .... 221

XXVII. THE HOME-COMING .... 2i8

XXVIII. THY WILL BE DONE .... 236

XXIX. CONSCIENCE DOTH MAKE COWARDS . . 245

XXX. SOMETHING LIKE A MIRACLE . . . 251

XXXI. FATE DEALS ANOTHER BLOW . . . 259

XXXII. TOWARDS THE " GREAT WATERS " . . 267

XXXIII. THE TRIUMPH OF HAROLD . . . 275



PROEM

This is the story of one man's soul.
The paths are stony and passion is blind,
And feet must bleed ere the light we find.

The cypher is writ on Life's mighty scroll,
And the Key is in each man's mind.

But who read aright, ye have won release,

Ye have touched the joy in the heart of Peace.

G. E. Evans.



My story was suggested by a beautiful poem
entitled " Loraine," which appears in a volume of
verses by the late George Essex Evans, the Australian
poet, entitled " The Secret 'Key," published by
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1906.



OUT THERE"



BOOK I
LOVE

"O sweet is the dawn of Love's perfect spring,
When the white arms clasp and the soft lips cling.'

CHAPTER I

THE DROUGHT

THE blazing sun flung out its scorching rays from the
cobalt sky, lighting up the billowy landscape with a
flame of withering tire. The panting earth, riven
and shrivelled, was brown and bare. The hardy gum
and box trees drooped and wilted, the water courses
had dried up, and the erstwhile picturesque little
settlement of Glenbar Run had the appearance of
having been swept by a thrice heated blast of a
smelting furnace. Like most Australian settlements
on the fringe of the Wilderness Glenbar Run, an out-
post of civilisation, was a straggling hamlet composed
of wooden shanties which might have been shaken up
in a gigantic dice box and tumbled out on to the
earth in higgledy-piggledy fashion. Hardy men from
the old country had come here to tempt fortune and
make their homes. They were all in the employ of
the owner of the Run. There had been fat years and
lean years. In the fat ones horses, sheep and cattle
roamed the grass-green, well-watered plains, and
brought wealth to their owners ; then ensued a
period when the heavens dried up, the parched earth

* "Out There" is the vernacular of Australia to indicate the wilderness
and unexplored regions.

9



io " OUT THERE "

turned brown and barren, while cattle and sheep
perished by thousands, and their bones, bleached
white in the pitiless heat, were scattered over thr
plains. There had beet! a two years' drought in the
district of Glenbar, and the little handful of settlers
bemoaned their fate, and were tempted to curse nature
for her cruelty, forgetting the plenteous seasons when
the trees put forth their green leaves, when the
orchards were golden with ripening fruit, when the
rich plains laughed into a harvest, and the cattle
roamed knee deep in lush grass. The green years
far out-numbered the brown ones, but when the
brown ones came they spelt loss for all, ruin for
some.

The earliest settlers in that wild region were the
Prestons, descendants from hardy English stock, an
ancient family who have written their names in some-
thing more stable than water. Emigrating from the
old country their wandering feet came at last to this
edge of the wilderness in a season when all was green,
and the narrow meandering river flowed deep in its
bed; there the}' pitched their tent, there they made
1 aeir home ; they sowed and reaped ; their four-footed
beasts increased and multiplied, and they waxed rich.
They were followed in time by a family who boasted
of their descent from the Scotch Gordons. The lure
of Australia had drawn them from their native heath
v/here the Scottish hills were barren, and life was
hard, toil profitless.

Wide and rich as the district of Glenbar was the
Prestons considered the Gordons intruders, and
resented their settling there; a bitter feud arose
between them, and lasted for many years. The
Prestons, however, having made good their claims,
did more than hold their own, and finally 'the Gordons
retreated about forty miles further to the south-east,
and founded the township of Gordonstown. But the
feud continued between the two families until death
claimed the old generation, and a new one began to
consolidate that, which in the primitive days, their
fathers had begun. The old feud seemed to have
been forgotten and Harold Preston, Lord paramount
of Glenbar Run, was the close friend of Oliver Gordon



THE DROUGHT n

of Gordonstown. Harold was Australian born, but
Gordon had come from the old country while still a
young man and so they had been much together, though
Gordon had spent some years in the South, Melbourne
and Sydney, and it seemed as if the bond of friendship
that knit them would remain unbroken during the
span of their mortal lives.

Harold Preston's homestead was a congeries of
irregular buildings, including a large and roomy
framehouse which served the purpose of a dwelling
and office, and numerous out-buildings, which now
gaped and yawned in the blistering heat, and,
excepting the stables, were silent and deserted. It
stood at the end of " Main Street," a street only in
name, facing the plains that stretched away to the
north-west where land and sky seemed to meet. In
a roughly boarded room whose wooden walls were
hung with guns, revolvers, spears and pouches,
Harold sat at a paper-strewn table. The window
frames were hung with matting to keep out the
blinding sunlight ; saddles and harness, spades,
rakes and a miscellaneous assortment of other tools
were scattered about the floor, while a large oil lamp
swung from the wooden ceiling.

Harold was a splendid specimen of a man who
looked younger than his twenty-six years. He had
a massive frame, muscular and well knit by the hard,
open-air life he had led. He was a bushman by
instinct and training, and the sun had tanned his
skin to the colour of an Arab. Indeed his dark eyes,
hair and moustache might have enabled him to pass
for an Arab. Attired in a thin woollen shirt, belt,
cord breeches and long boots, his arms bared to the
shoulders, he looked like a man capable of bearing
any hardship, one who would be dauntless in the face
of danger. But now as he sat with a number of open
letters before him, he seemed thoughtful and troubled.
His elbow rested on the arm of his chair, his hand
was pressed to his forehead. He was not alone. His
manager, Jim Dawkins, who an hour ago had ridden
in from Gordonstown with the mail bag, was reclining
on a rickety couch, blowing' clouds of smoke from a
clay pipe. His large felt hat was flung carelessly on



i2 " OUT THERE "

the floor, his shirt was wide open at the neck, and
the exposed parts of his body were brick-brown. He
was the product of a country and mode of life that
demand brawn and exceptional powers of endurance.
After his long ride in the scorching heat, he had been
content to rest and remain silent for half an hour
enjoying his pipe while his employer perused his
letters.

At last he swung his feet off the couch, and sitting
upright, spoke.

" Bad news; eh, boss? " Jim was a man of dis-
cernment ; he used his eyes to good purpose.

" Yes, Jim. Couldn't be worse. This drought
means ruin for me."

" Not as bad as that I hope, boss."

" Yes, Jim, ruin, absolute ruin," said Preston with
a sigh. " The loss of fifty thousand sheep and
cattle during the last two years, to say nothing of the
failure of the crops, had nearly brought me to the
end of my tether, and now the final blow has
fallen."

Jim jumped to his feet, his great bulky frame
heaved.

" God! What is it, boss? " he exclaimed.

For some moments the boss remained silent. His
feelings had overcome him, but with an effort he
recovered himself.

" Frainpton & Heathcote, the solicitors in Mel-
bourne, write to say that their client has
instructed them to foreclose the mortgage on my
property."

Jim Dawkins' tanned forehead puckered into a
frown.

" Blarst 'em," he snapped ferociously.

" The drought has blasted us," the boss rejoined.
" They'll flourish, but we shall go under. And this
is the end of my toil and struggle." Then with a
passionate outburst he pressed his hands to his head
and cried: " My God, has nature no pity; will the
rain never come? "

" Can nothing be done, boss? " asked Jim in a
tone of despair, while his browned face took on an
expression of deep concern.



THE DROUGHT 13

" What is there to do? As you know the remnant
of the live stock that I sent down to Melbourne three
months ago were in such wretched condition that they
only realised half of what I expected to get, and now
I have nothing else to sell."

Jim thrust his great sunburnt hands deep into his
breeches pockets, and paced up and down for some
moments. He was a rugged, honest fellow, but his
brain worked slowly though it worked well. Suddenly
he swung round, and his blue eyes sparkled.

" Now look you 'ere, boss. I was on this Run in
your old father's day, and I've seen ups and downs,
but there has been more ups than downs. And you
and me has seen ups and downs, but the ups had it
till this hellish drought struck us. Now you've got
to pull through somehow. I've been a saving chap
as you know, and I've got something like a thousand
quid stowed away in a Melbourne bank. That's yours,
boss, every farthing of it if it's of any use."

Harold seized the hand of his faithful servant and
wrung it. His voice was husky as he spoke.

" Jim, you are a white man," he said with visible
emotion. " But unless rain comes to-morrow or the
next day, or a month hence your thousand pounds
would only go into the melting pot, and you, like
myself, would be left penniless. No, my friend, I am
not going to gamble with your bit which you've won
by sweat and toil. I am still young, you are getting
into years. This is a big country, and somewhere or
other I must begin life over again, or go out and
search for gold."

" And what of Miss Mary? " asked Jim with a
touching tenderness.

" My God! Yes, what of her," gasped Harold as he
reeled, fell into a chair and covered his face with his
hands.

Jim Dawkins' face was a picture of distress. He
had been a loyal and faithful servant to his master,
and beneath his rough exterior beat a big heart. He
laid a hand on Harold's shoulder.

" Now look here, boss. You ain't agoing to knock
under if I can help it. You've got to take that bit
of mine for the gal's sake. Maybe it's only a drop



i 4 " OUT THERE "

in the bucket, but in these droughty times even a
drop's precious. If the rains come in the autumn
you can stock the land again, and things will pan
out all right, you bet."

Harold caught the hand in both of his and pressed
it hard. His eyes were wet. The strong man's soul
was stirred to its depths.

" Jim Dawkins," he said with a catch in his voice,
"I wish you hadn't mentioned Miss Mary's name;
it tempts me to take your savings the savings of
years when all the time I know it is bound to go
as the rest has gone unless God Almighty will open
the sluice gates and let the rains fall. But the
heavens are dried up, and the blistered land hasn't
feed enough to keep a single sheep alive, nor
moisture enoiigh to grow a single ear of corn."

" But if the thousand would tide you over for
another few months," urged Jim, " and if the rain
comes then "

" If if that mighty if. If one could make sure
of the rain ; if one could make sure of anything in
this strange world If ! "

" I tell yer, boss, it will come in the autumn as

sure's death," persisted Jim. " I see signs Hullo,

here's a buggy coming up," as the sound of wheels
and the hoof beats of a horse fell on his ears. He
walked to the window, pulled aside the matting,
letting in a flood of blinding light, and shading his
eyes from the quivering, white heat-haze he saw a
bu ggy being rapidly "driven up " Main Street,"
and as it came to a stop at the homestead, he let the
mat fall, and announced : "It's Miss Mary Gordon,
and Mr Oliver Gordon."



CHAPTER II

MARY

HAROLD PRESTON sprang to his feet and hurried to
the veranda, followed by Jim, as a handsome young
man in a white duck suit was helping a young lady
out of the buggy.

" By Jove! " cried Preston as he wrung the hand
of each in turn, " you come like manna from heaven
to me in the wilderness. But whatever has brought
you up to this furnace? "

" Phew ! What heat," exclaimed Oliver Gordon.
" It's been like driving through the realms of Hades.
But give us to drink or we perish. Here, Jim, haul
that case out of the trap, then get the horse into the
stable and rub him down. I've brought plenty of
feed for him in the buggy."

The case was carried into Harold's room. It
contained an assortment of bottles of spirits, wine
and soda-water. Harold's old housekeeper Betsy
was summoned and ordered to conduct Miss Gordon
to the bedroom and provide her with the means of
removing the white dust of the road from her
garments and face.

When the two men were alone Harold turned to his
friend, and again asked :

" What in the name of all that's wonderful has
induced you to come up here in this blistering heat ? "

" You may well ask ! But I'm choking with dust ;
my mouth is like a fiery furnace ; I must have a
drink before I can talk." He produced a corkscrew
from his pocket, opened the case, took out a bottle

15



16 " OUT THERE "

of brandy and some soda-water, while Harold
produced glasses from his cupboard.

" Well, here's to you, old chap; and may God be
merciful and send rain," said Oliver as he drained a
tumbler of brandy and soda. " Ah, that's refreshing,
hot as it is." He threw himself on to the couch,
pulled out his pipe and rammed it full of tobacco,
and as he puffed out a cloud of smoke said, " Now I
begin to feel more like a respecting Christian. Upon
my soul I think that drive from Gordonstown here in
weather like this is about the limit. And I don't
believe any other horse I have in my possession but
the roan gelding would have stayed it. Forty odd
miles in this heat is a staggerer."

" What ! do you mean to say you've driven
Kangaroo ? "

"Why of course. Didn't you recognise him? '

" No, I was so surprised to see you and Mary I had
no eyes for anything else."

" Dear old Kangaroo," mused Oliver. " Do you
remember my riding him last year in the Gordons-
town sweepstakes, and beating you on Charioteer by
a head, and Charioteer was a beauty."

" Of course I do."

" And Charioteer was as good a bit of horse flesh
as ever was bred. By the way, what's become of
him? "

" I had to sell him," answered Harold with a lump
in his throat.

"The devil you did. Why was that? "

" I wanted money, old chap, or you may bet your
life I wouldn't have parted with him. There will be
no more racing for me for some time to come, I'm
afraid."

" Good God, are things as bad as that? " gasped
Gordon.

" Yes. I'm broke."

At this announcement a peculiar expression came
into Oliver Gordon's face, and he glanced at his
friend out of the corners of his eyes.

" Don't make ghastly jokes, old fellow," he said
with a little short laugh. " You broke! No I "

" I assure you it's no joke, my dear friend. I got



MARY 17

a mail this morning from Frampton & Heathcote
to say their client had instructed them to foreclose.
I wonder who their mysterious client is."

"I wonder! " muttered the other, while his eyes
seemed bent on vacancy.

" I wonder too. It's like hitting a man when he's
down, eh ? "

" Yes," assented Gordon still with the vacant
expression.

" It isn't cricket, but it's business," said Preston
with a disdainful shrug of his massive shoulders.
"Business! Good Lord! Business to take advan-
tage of your fellow-men to feather your own nest.
When a fellow is hard up and he owes you money,
crush him body and soul. Get your pound of flesh
whether you kill him or not. That's smart business.
The laws of business decree that you must have no
bowels of compassion. The bond. The bond, that's
the only thing to be considered. Let the bond-giver
go to Hades and be damned. It's business. Well,
thank heaven I'm not a business man in that sense.
A man who can pay and won't should be made to
pay ; he who would but can't should be dealt with
mercifully."

" It's everyone for himself, old chap, in this
strangely constituted world," remarked Oliver as if
for the sake of saying something.

" Let's change the subject," said Preston with a
show of irritation. " You haven't told me yet the
cause of this unexpected visit."
" Mary."
" Mary? "

" Yes. She informed me yesterday when I
happened to meet her at the Pioneer Club that she
must see you on an urgent and pressing matter, and
that she intended to ride over here to-day. I urged
the madness of so long a ride in weather like this,
and offered to drive her in the buggy. She pro-
tested. I insisted, so here we are."

" You're a brick, Oliver. But what's the urgent
and pressing matter ? "

" Don't ask me. Mary doesn't take me into her
confidence," answered his friend with something very



iS " OUT THERE "

like a sneer. " She's a Gordon and has got a will of
her own. A Gordon can give a mule points in
stubbornness."

Preston laughed.

" Don't forget that you are a Gordon, old fellow."

" By the Lord Harry I don't and won't," exclaimed
Oliver with what seemed unnecessary vehemence, and
a look of fierceness as if some memory of an old
wrong had been suddenly revived. The eyes of the
men met, Harold's spoke of the astonishment he felt
at his friend's outburst. Before he could make any
reply the door opened and Mary entered.

" You dear, plucky little woman, to risk coming
to this fier}' furnace,"" cried Harold with admiration
as he placed a chair for her.

" Risk ! there is no risk," answered Mary with a
sweet girlish laugh. " Besides, I've come on a
most important errand that would admit of no
delay."

" Yes, so Oliver tells me; an urgent and pressing
matter, he says. Pray don't keep me in suspense.
What is it ? "' Urgent and pressing ' sounds rather
alarming."

" Yoti will have to nurse your curiosity," she
answered with a smile, " until such time as well
until I've cooled down and an opportunity occurs."
Her sparkling brown eyes were fixed on Oliver's
face, as if looking for signs.

" Oh, if I'm de trop," he snapped irritably,

T >

" Xo you won't, Mr Hoighty-toighty," she chided
pleasantly. " You'll stop where you are. What
I've got to tell Harold is in the first instance for his
ears alone. But it will keep for a little while; in the
meantime one of you give me a bottle of soda-water.
I'm choking."

Oliver made no movement, he had stretched himself
on the couch, but there was fire in, his eyes as he
replied with ill-concealed irritation :

" You command, I obey of course." He laughed,
but it lacked the soul of true laughter. " I'm only
the tertium quid, that is the one . too many."

" Now don't be a snarly bow-wow," replied the



MARY 19

girl with an entrancing smile, her eyes dancing with
good humour.

" No, I'm only the silly poodle," he said acidly.
" Harold's top dog; lucky beggar."

" Now no wrangling," exclaimed Harold as he
filled a glass with soda-water and handed it to Mary,
who took it, and with a glance of approval at each
of the men drank a deep draught, and sighed grate-
fully. She was a picture of womanty beauty. Her
fawn-brown eyes, her healthy pink and white
complexion, her wealth of brown-gold hair shimmer-
ing in the sunlight that filtered through the screened
windows, were points calculated to arouse the
enthusiasm and stir the blood of the dullest of men.
Whilst allied to this physical attractiveness was a
quick witteduess, a keen intelligence, not to speak
of a self-possessed manner and a certain master-
fulness that commanded respect. Mary Gordon was
Australian born, she came of good stock on both
sides, and the free open life of the bush had developed
in her the highest qualities of womanhood and self-
dependence. Her mother was a Miss Howard, a
lineal descendant of the Howards of England. Oliver
Gordon was her kinsman by consanquinity although
they were only distantly related, but they regarded
themselves as cousins. At one time there had been
some girl and boy love passages between her and
Oliver, but Harold Preston had won her heart, and
Oliver had remained the chum of both, although at
the time he bitterly reproached Mary for " throwing
him over."

" Well, this is a scorched-up, blighted spot," she
said as she leaned back in her chair and fanned herself
with her handkerchief. " It's bad enough in
Gordonstown, but occasionally heavy rain and
thunderstorms freshen us up, and keep the tempera-
tiire comparatively cool."

" It has scorched and blighted me," said Preston
thoughtfully, " and to-day I have learnt that I am
ruined."

Mary searched his face with a keen glance, and
.placing a hand on each of the arms of the chair she
leaned forward, and in an eager tone said :



20 " OUT THERE "

" Bosh ! Don't talk about being ruined, Harold.
A man of your resource and energy and splendid
youth is not likely to go under. You've got to
fight. You are too optimistic to be easily knocked
out."

" It's true, Mary, my dear, all the same," he
answered sadly. " This two years' drought has
beggared me, and to-day I have received a letter from
Frampton & Heathcote informing me that their
client intends to foreclose on the mortgage. That
spells utter and absolute ruin for me."

Mary sat straight up and stared at him with a
pondering and thoughtful expression that made her
look years older.

" Foreclose on the mortgage," she echoed.

" Yes."

" Who is their client? "

" Ah, that I don't know. I was recommended to
the solicitors, who told me they had certain money of
a client to invest, but the client did not want to be
known nominally. The solicitors are the mortgagees."

Mary leaned her elbow on the chair arm and her
head on her hand, in an attitude of deep reflection.

" Does foreclosing mean that they can take your
property? " she asked pointedly.

" That is exactly what it does mean. They collar
everything mentioned in the bond ; every acre, houses,
stock, all I possess in the world. Possibly they
would take the flesh off my bones if they thought it
was worth anything; or even my soul if they could
realise on it."

Oliver sat bolt upright on the couch, took his face
in his hands, and puffed at his pipe.

" Can't something be done? " he asked, staring at
the floor like a man lost in thought.

" Can't you do something? " Mary queried sharply.

He rose to his feet, thrust one hand in his breeches
pocket, and held his pipe in the other.

" I don't know," he said, still pondering. " I've
been pretty hard hit myself, and what trifle I've got
is so tied up that I find it difficult to keep my head
above water."

" My dear old chum," cried Harold huskily as he



MARY 21

grasped his friend's hand, " I know that you've got
your own worries and difficulties, and I'll be hanged
before I pile mine on top of you. Life's a game. I've
had a run of rotten luck, but I must just begin again,
that's all."

Gordon appeared to be deeply affected.

" It breaks a fellow's heart,'' he said, " to have
to stand helpless and see his chum go under. But
don't despair, old chap. Something will turn up.


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryDick DonovanOut there : a romance of Australia → online text (page 1 of 22)